Making a decision is widely viewed as a process with a minimum of five steps. They are: defining the situation, generating alternative possibilities for action, gathering information, selecting the best alternative, and taking action. Software is a computer program that provides an operating system for a computer or performs some task. Decision making software (DMS) is software to help the user in the decision making process. Decision making software is considered a subset of decision support systems (DSS), which have a broader aim, while multi-criteria decision making systems (MCDM) have a narrower aim, which is to assist in making a decision about pre-selected alternatives in the face of conflicting criteria.
There are several ways to categorize decision making software, and one way is by the model of decision making the program is based on. The decision-making models that the software is based on are rational models, rational iterative models, models with a set number of steps — 5, 6, 7, or 9, for example — intuitive models, and other models. Another choice is between the decision tree model of the software, as opposed to the step model or other models that are not trees, such as cognitive mapping software, and matrices. A single person or organization may find different models useful in different situations.
Decision making software is most often sold to businesses, but there are also personal versions and online versions, some of which are free. Some programs are free-standing and others are Microsoft® Excel® add-ins; some are more amenable to being used by groups than others. Some people simply use spreadsheet software as it is to make their decisions, adapting them in whatever ways work for them.
Examples of decision making software include Logical Decisions®, which uses matrices; Banxia® Decision Explorer®, which is cognitive mapping software; Lumenaut®, which is a Microsoft® Excel® add-in that offers decision tree analysis; Vanguard Studio™ with Decision Tree Analysis Add-in, which also offers Markov simulations; and MindDecider®, which offers mind mapping, as well as decision making.